58 BTO projects delayed by at least 6 months this year, down from 74 in 2021: Desmond Lee

The median waiting time for BTO projects over the next two years is between four and four and a half years. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The number of Build-To-Order (BTO) projects delayed by six months or longer has dropped to 58 this year from 74 in 2021, said National Development Minister Desmond Lee on Wednesday (May 25).

Mr Lee gave the update on BTO delays during a tour of the Northshore Edge project in Punggol, which will be completed soon.

This means fewer than 60 per cent of Housing Board BTO projects faced ongoing delays as at April this year, compared with more than 80 per cent of projects a year ago, he added.

HDB handed almost 15,000 homes to flat buyers in 2021, more than the 13,500 in 2019, Mr Lee noted.

"We are quietly confident that this year, we will be able to deliver even more keys," he said.

As at Wednesday, 70 buyers have collected keys to their homes in the first of three blocks in Northshore Edge, an HDB spokesman said.

There are 119 units in Block 402B Northshore Drive. Of these, 118 units have been booked.

Northshore Edge comprises 388 units, and the remaining two blocks will be completed in the coming weeks.

The minister said the median waiting time for BTO projects over the next two years is between four and 4½ years, compared with four to five years during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Factors that will affect waiting time include the site's location as well as its terrain and surroundings.

"Some projects will take longer because they are tall buildings - sometimes even with high-rise gardens - so they will take longer as the build quality and design are more complex," Mr Lee added.He said several factors contributed to a “perfect storm” that affected the construction sector over the past two years.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020, many migrant workers in dormitories contracted the coronavirus, and construction works could restart only in August that year.

On top of that, there was a severe shortage of workers for both public and private projects due to border closures, he added.

“Logistics was affected; freight charges doubled, tripled. There was also an issue of availability of drivers,” Mr Lee said.

“As recently as six to eight months ago, HDB had a shortage of 25 per cent of our workforce needed to build our HDB projects,” he said.

It has now been replenished through recruitment and the return of workers from overseas.

To speed up construction in Northshore Edge, HDB helped the main contractor for the project, Teambuild, bring in almost 40 workers last November.

Teambuild construction director Hong Wee Khong said the lack of workers affected  productivity and the project's schedule.

But the National Environment Agency granted the project an exemption to carry out less noisy construction activity on Sundays and public holidays, to speed up works.

The first block was completed in 3.8 years.

National Development Minister Desmond Lee touring the Northshore Edge project in Punggol, which will be completed soon. ST PHOTO: EUGENE SOH

While the situation has improved, Mr Lee said, unforeseen circumstances such as the resurgence of Covid-19 and other diseases like dengue, as well as supply chain disruptions, could cause more delays.

For instance, the war in Ukraine could exacerbate logistics issues and the economic situation.

Acknowledging that the delays had led to anxiety among home buyers, Mr Lee said HDB updates them on a regular basis.

“HDB’s priority is to minimise delays, keep projects going as they are, and help the construction sector recover.  At the same time, (HDB is) working to launch more BTOs to meet the high demand for housing during this period,” he added.

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